Table of Contents
The following prayers are at the very beginning of the morning service. These prayers help us to start our day with intention and gratitude.
The first thing a person should do upon awakening in the morning is to recite the Modeh Ani prayer.
The words modeh ani mean “I am grateful” or “I acknowledge.” The prayer goes on to specify that the waking individual both acknowledges and is grateful to God for the restoration of the soul following the dormancy of sleep.
This statement of faith reasserts God’s daily presence and compassion in our lives.
To use the feminine form of the opening verb say modah ani.
The early morning benedictions (Birkhot Ha-shaḥar or Birchot HaShachar) are a series of blessings that refer serially to those of God’s gifts we acknowledge as we rise in the morning and prepare to begin the day.
Once, it was customary to recite a benediction for each part of one’s morning routine as each deed was accomplished: when washing one’s hands, upon dressing for the day, upon putting on one’s shoes, and so on.
Maimonides (Mishneh Torah, Prayer and the Priestly Blessing 7:1–8) followed the lead of the Talmud and ordained that just such a procedure be followed and that the blessings be pronounced as they naturally devolve upon an individual.
We follow the later codes, however, and include all the benedictions at the beginning of the Morning Service (Shulchan Arukh, Orach Chayim 46:1–2).
It is also customary to include a section of Torah study in the early part of the Morning Service and to follow it with the recitation of the Kaddish D’rabbanan, the Kaddish for teachers and students.
Incorporating the study of Torah into the daily liturgy provides an opportunity to fulfill the commandment of daily study even when time is limited.
This introductory section of the morning liturgy concludes with the thirtieth psalm (Psalms 30), after which the Mourner’s Kaddish is recited.
Rabbi Simlai is quoted in the Talmud at BT Berakhot 32a as saying that we should always recount the praises due God before we actually recite our prayers.
This idea developed eventually into the practice of reciting a series of psalms, now called P’sukei D’zimra (Verses of Song), before the formal beginning of the service. This begins and ends with a blessing and comprises miscellanies of biblical verses and full chapters of several psalms, including Psalms 100 and Psalms 145–150.
P’sukei D’zimra also includes a full liturgical rendition of the Song of the Sea (Exodus 15:1–18).
The Song of the Sea celebrates the drowning of the Egyptians, but the point of its recitation is not to revel in the downfall of others. Rather it is to recognize the role of the miraculous in the history of Israel and to glorify God’s supreme rule over all nations.
Adapted with permission from The Observant Life.